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Jankovic finished on top, while Williamses won some more majors

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Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The 2008 WTA Tour season produced two different Serbian world No. 1s and some more major hardware for the mighty Williams sisters.

Both Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic reached the top of the women's tennis world, but it was Jankovic who finished as the year-end No. 1 for the first time in her career (despite having never won a major title).

The 23-year-old Belgrade native outdueled Serena Williams for the year-end top spot by piling up a co-tour-best 65 match wins (65-19), including four titles. She also landed in her first-ever Grand Slam final, only to lose to Serena at the U.S. Open.

Jelena Jankovic reached her first-ever Grand Slam final and finished the year at No. 1.
Jankovic raked in over $3 million in 2008 and reached at least the fourth round at all four of the majors, including at least the semifinals in three of them.

Grade: A-

Serena, meanwhile, posted an awesome 44-8 record in '08 and actually sat atop the rankings for a spell. And, like Jankovic, she also tallied four titles, including the big one in Flushing, which gave her career major victory number nine.

Serena also captured the so-called "Fifth Major" in Miami by beating Jankovic in a marquee finale.

The 27-year-old superstar came in at just under $4 million for the year, and is just under $22 million for her outstanding career. She reached at least the quarterfinals at three of the four majors, including a pair of finals (1-1). She lost to her big sister Venus in the Wimbledon finale back in July.

FYI, Serena went 2-1 against Jankovic this year.

Grade: A

The sixth-ranked Venus capped off a strong '08 campaign by capturing the season-ending Sony Ericsson Championships, for the first time in her career, in undefeated fashion (5-0). That, of course, was in addition to her fifth Wimbledon title and seventh overall major championship.

Serena Williams captured the U.S. Open and achieved No. 1 status once again.
The 28-year-old star was a three-time champion in 2008 and crossed the finish line with more than $3.7 million to become No. 2 on the all-time earnings list, behind only fellow American Lindsay Davenport. Venus has piled up just under $22 million on court.

The former world No. 1 Venus reached at least the quarters in three of the four majors en route to a 40-11 overall mark. She was 1-2 versus the top- ranked Jankovic for the year, and 2-2 against Serena.

Things were tight at the top.

Grade: A

Russian Dinara Safina made perhaps the biggest move this year, finishing the season at No. 3 after opening it at No. 15.

The younger sister of men's two-time major champion Marat Safin, Safina was an impressive 55-20 with four titles. The slugger reached her first-ever major final, at the French Open, and was also the runner-up at the Olympic Games in Beijing.

Safina corralled just over $2.5 million in prize dough in what you could only describe as a breakthrough season, one that also included a trip into the U.S. Open semis.

The 22-year-old Safina played like a future No. 1, a perch she could definitely reach in 2009.

Grade: A-

Venus Williams continued her reign at Wimbledon and also won the season-ending Championships.
Safina's fellow Russian Elena Dementieva quietly had a great season, going 56-17 with three titles, including an Olympic gold medal. Her prize money came in at just under $2 million, but she's still seeking that elusive first-ever major championship. The world No. 4 reached at least the quarterfinals in three of the four majors, including semifinals at Wimby and the U.S. Open.

Grade: A-

The aforementioned Ivanovic had a brilliant first half in 2008 before falling off mightily in the second. She joined Serena as the only woman to reach a pair of major finals, with a loss coming at the Australian Open and a win coming at the French, marking her first-ever major championship.

After reaching finals at the Aussie and French Opens, the currently fifth- ranked Ivanovic failed to get past the third round at the last two majors of the year, including a shocking second-round setback at the hands of unknown Frenchwoman Julie Coin (who?) at the U.S. Open.

The 21-year-old Ivanovic ultimately sputtered across the finish line at 38-15, including a winless week at the season-ending Championships, after achieving world No. 1 status for the first time in her career. She wound up with three titles and just over $2.8 million in prize money.

Grade: B+

Russia, led by Elena Dementieva (center), swept the singles medals at the Olympic Games in Beijing.
Let's shift gears.

In what started out to be a promising season for Maria Sharapova, it turned out to be an injury-shortened one for the glamorous Russian.

Sharapova got off to a fast start by winning the Australian Open, marking her third career major title. But by late summer, she was nursing a shoulder injury that forced her to shut it down in August, thus giving her five months off.

The 21-year-old Sharapova was a dominant 31-4 in 2008, a year in which she was one of five (yes, five) different women to hold the No. 1 ranking. The mega- star nailed down three titles and collected just under $2 million before her season was cut short.

Like Ivanovic, Sharapova also suffered one of the biggest upsets of the year, when she succumbed to fellow Russian Alla Kudryavtseva (who?) in the second round at Wimbledon.

Grade: B+

Ana Ivanovic was one of only two women to land in two major finals in 2008.
Another Russian made a lot of noise in 2008, as Vera Zvonareva quietly co-led the tour (along with Jankovic) with her 65 match wins (65-22) and won a pair of titles. She was the surprise Sony Ericsson Championships runner-up to Venus last week in Doha, captured a bronze medal in Beijing, and is now a career- high No. 7 in the world.

The 24-year-old Zvonareva also helped Russia capture a second straight Fed Cup title this year.

Zvonareva pocketed just under $1.8 million and helps to give the powerful Russians five of the Top-10 players in the world. Unfortunately for her, she failed to get past the fourth round at any of the majors, including second- round-or-worse exits at three of the four Slams.

Perhaps we can expect even bigger things from Zvonareva in 2009?

Vera! Vera! What has become of you? Does anybody else in here Feel the way I do?

(It seemed like the right time to sprinkle in a little Floyd.)

Grade: B+

Another Top-10 star to keep your eye on is No. 10 Agnieszka Radwanska. The 19- year-old Krakow, Poland native was an eye-catching 54-20, including a trio of titles, She was a quarterfinalist at the Aussie Open and Wimbledon and went as far as the fourth round and the French and U.S. Opens.

Go Aggie!

Grade: B+

Here's the part where I could talk about world No. 8 Svetlana Kuznetsova. But I don't think I will.

Alright...maybe a little bit.

The former U.S. Open champ went a respectable 44-21, but failed to win a title of any kind, losing five times in as many finals. She reached only one major quarterfinal and appears to be heading in the wrong direction at this point in her career.

Kuznetsova did, however, lead Russia to that second straight Fed Cup championship.

Grade: B-

Justine Henin announced her retirement from tennis despite being the top-ranked player in the world.
But the biggest story of the year came off the court, when Justine Henin abruptly announced her retirement from the tour. The diminutive Belgian became the first-ever standing No. 1 to retire from the sport.

That would still put you in your prime.

The 26-year-old Henin was a solid 16-4, including a pair of titles, when she announced she was quitting. She was the reigning French and U.S. Open champion when she decided to leave, and was only weeks away from a defense of her title in Paris, where she would have been the three-time defending champ.

Henin appeared in only one major event in 2008, reaching the quarterfinals at the Aussie Open. She closed out her career with seven major titles and more than $19 million in prize money.

Is "Queen" Justine done for good? It's hard to say...but I'm leaning in the "I don't know" direction.

Grade: Incomplete?

In addition to Safina and Radwanska, some other big movers in the women's game were Denmark's Caroline Wozniacki (No. 12), Italian Flavia Pennetta (No. 13), Belarusian Victoria Azarenka (No. 15), France's Alize Cornet (No. 16) and Slovakian Dominika Cibulkova (No. 19). Wozniacki, Azarenka and Cibulkova definitely have plenty of upside and look like sure-fire future Top-10ers.

Note to the 32-year-old Davenport: Hang 'em up. You're the all-time money leader, your major-winning days are clearly over, and you have a child to raise.

Summary
Jankovic on top...Williamses won half the Slams...Lots of No. 1s...Dementieva gold...Russians everywhere...Henin quits...Davenport's old.

See you next year!

Ace or double fault? Send your comments to Scott Riley at sriley@sportsnetwork.com.
Scott Riley


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